A few years ago, in the course of a political discussion with some friends, I made a comment something along the lines of “if we must have a two-party system, couldn’t we at least have one where the current corporate ‘Democratic’ Party is the conservative one?” Now, it looks like that re-alignment is actually happening.
The recent primary elections have exposed major schisms in both of today’s parties. The Republican Party’s post-Reagan madness has seen it devolve into several squabbling factions: the bigot Republicans, the theocracy Republicans, the libertarian Republicans, and the “moderate” Republicans. On the Democratic side, the corporate blandocrats remain in charge after fighting off a progressive rebellion.
For the moment, the Bigot Republicans have taken over that party. Facts are irrelevant, policies are irrelevant, science is an evil conspiracy. If we just blame all our problems on brown people, black people, women, homosexuals, and liberals while chanting “USA! USA!” really loud, all of our problems will be solved. In simple electoral terms, that strategy is doomed. The Orange One is seeing major blocks of his own party peel off, and he’s not picking up significant numbers of independents or disaffected Democrats. America is not as white, or as male-controlled, as it used to be. I’m not sure if it ever was quite that stupid.
The coming election will see not only the resounding defeat of Trump, but substantial losses by the Republicans down-ticket as well. The evangelicals are trying to hold their nose and vote for the serial adulterer, but their enthusiasm is under-whelming. Libertarians have their own candidate, who will attract a substantial number of votes that might otherwise go to a Republican. The moderate Republicans—both of them—will wind up voting for Hillary. Plus, Republican House and Senate candidates are in a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t dilemma: do they support Trump and go down in flames, or do they disavow Trump, lose the support of their base, and go down in flames?
It’s hard to imagine a future Republican leader who can re-assemble the shattered fragments of the Reagan/Bush coalition and put together a nationally viable party. Today’s America is too diverse for a party which only appeals to uneducated straight white male Christians. Sure, the remnants of the Republican party will continue to win local races and congressional seats in the deep South and parts of the Midwest, but its fragmentation and dogmatism will preclude it from winning a national election in the foreseeable future.
On the Democratic side, the primary election revealed a simpler, dichotomous split between the corporate wing of the party and the progressive one. On many issues, the post-Reagan Democratic Party has drifted rightward alongside the Republican Party’s rightward plunge into madness. Today’s Democrats support grossly bloated military budgets, bombing Middle Eastern wedding parties, job- and environment-destroying trade deals, private for-profit prisons, more drilling for oil, fracking, pipelines, low taxes for the uber-wealthy, overseas tax havens for profitable corporations, and on and on. Is this Democratic Party part of the solution, or part of the problem? Is it a surprise that the candidate pre-selected by the ruling cabal before anyone had actually voted faced a revolt?
Yeah, yeah. I know… today’s Democrats are really good on some issues too. Gay marriage, equal pay for women, abortion rights, great. You want to know a dirty, politically incorrect, secret? Social issues are cheap. You can support gay marriage and still rake in the big campaign contributions from Exxon, because that’s not an issue the global corporate monoculture cares about. Meanwhile, we’re still pumping billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and the perpetual war in the Middle East and central Asia continues apace.
You want to know another secret? Talk is cheap, too. The corporate Democrats talk the talk regarding climate change, but the moment they face some resistance they capitulate utterly and walk… away. The obstructionist Republicans are convenient props for the corporate Democrats. The Ds can claim to want to do stuff, and then just throw up their arms and walk away when faced with resistance. If shit happens, it’s all the Rs fault for obstructing the Ds’ proposals. If good stuff happens, it’s a triumph of the Ds over the obstruction. And all of this without the Ds demonstrating a hint of a trace of an iota of a vestigial remnant of backbone. The corporate cash keeps flowing, because the Ds haven’t meaningfully challenged their corporate overlords.
The Bernie Sanders rebellion shows that I’m not the only one who is sick of the bullshit. A two party system where one party is completely insane and the other is content to be slightly less bad is not a healthy, sustainable democracy.
So, where are we going, and what are we doing in this handbasket? The short term prognosis for the corporate Ds is great. Hillary’s certain to be the next President, and even the bland, unprincipled, big money candidates the DNC recruits will likely win control of the Senate and cut deeply into the Rs’ majority in the House. But this should not be read as a ringing endorsement of corporate blandocracy, only a repudiation of the vile, poisonous Republican brand.
The corporate Ds will then have to govern. The Rs will still have the ability to obstruct, and the few progressives aren’t always going to march in lock-step with Clintonian ‘compromises’.
Will Clinton’s really, truly, honest-to-goodness, completely sincere attempt to overturn Citizens United succeed? Of course not. She’ll make a timid effort to start a constitutional amendment drive and then give up. Possible legislative mitigations will be ignored. As one of the biggest beneficiaries of today’s Money Rules system, she has little reason to try too hard. As the leader of an ostensibly progressive party, she has an obligation to give the issue lip service.
Will Clinton’s really, truly, honest-to-goodness, completely sincere opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership prevent it from being implemented? Of course not. If it’s not shoved through the lame duck session of Congress, she’ll “re-negotiate” the deal, making superficial changes while leaving the guts of the monster intact. Then, she’ll shove that through Congress, using the fast track authority passed while she so conveniently hadn’t declared a position yet.
So, Clinton winds up with a rebellion from the left, belligerent obstruction from the right, and a ringing mandate to not be Donald Trump. Not much will get done by the federal government the next four years. But she gets multiple scapegoats to blame for this. Wonderful.
In the 2018 Congressional races, the DNC will succeed in nominating another herd of neoliberal corporate blandocrats. Turnout will be low, and many of them will lose. Hillary and the DNC will blame the hippies for not marching in lockstep behind her anointed nobodies. OK, that prediction was just too easy.
I’m not sure what happens in 2020. Will Hillary seek a second term? Will the progressives make one last attempt to reform the Democratic Party, or will they form a new party?
But, by 2024, a few things will have happened:
- The Republican Party as we now know it will have dissolved into national electoral irrelevance, a victim of a diversifying electorate and factional squabbling. The Democratic Party will continue to drift to the right on a whole host of issues. It will continue to wallow in giant pits of corporate cash. It will lose support from the left, and gain support from today’s “moderate” Republicans.
- The Libertarian Party will gain support from the government-hating factions of the former Republican Party, but not enough to be much of a factor nationally.
- A new left wing party will form. It will win a good number of seats in Congress from the West and the Northeast, but it will be very difficult for this new party to gain power nationally, as the Ds will have all of the money and campaign finance reform won’t pass any time soon. One immediate benefit of the existence of this party is it will stop the inexorable rightward drift of media discourse. It will be impossible for the media to ignore future Bernie Sanderses.
- The Green Party will continue to be irrelevant. The new left party will form outside the current Green structure.
So, eventually, the two party system re-establishes itself, with the Clintonistas in the right wing party. Where they belong.